ELLINBANK and District Football League president Roger Gwynne scored plenty of support around Gippsland this week when he declared there would be no football in his league unless restrictions were lifted on crowds by June 30.
He said clubs in the Ellinbank League were unanimous about June 30 being the deadline a restart and a lifting of restrictions or it would be too late.
Speaking on ABC Gippsland Radio last Friday, Gwynne was unequivocal.
“You can’t run country football and netball without any spectators, and I can’t see Daniel Andrews and his Chief Health Officer relaxing the restrictions to allow masses of spectators there,” Mr Gwynne said.
Asked if he was leaving room for a miracle to happen by setting June 30 as the deadline for a start to footy, he said it was the decision of the clubs to provide some level of certainty to players and supporters.
“We can’t operate without people coming through the gate, football and netball are in agreement.”
“The crowds are the number one issue for us,” he said.
Mr Gwynne said clubs in the league had salary caps of $80,000 and it could cost as much as $250,000 to run a footy club.
“We also rely on our sponsors and if there are no spectators, there’s no sponsors either.”
He said Ellinbank and District was a very close-knit organisation with well-run clubs, but they couldn’t play without income.
“Unless all of the restrictions are lifted by the end of the month, we’re not going to play.”
The deadline, in the absence of any decision by AFL Victoria had clubs in other leagues nodding in agreement.
“I have serious doubts about it,” said Dalyston FNC President Andy Thomas.
He said it was already getting harder to get people to commit to playing this season.
“Getting the money to play without canteen and gate takings is just too had and it’s getting too late.”
And he dismissed the idea players could play for nothing.
“We’ve got tradesmen who give up their Saturdays and uni students coming back from Melbourne each weekend to play. You can’t expect them to bear all the costs it takes to play.”
Mr Thomas said the club’s volunteers were already being asked to do a lot without the added responsibilities of COVID-19 restrictions when they’re not health people.
He said the opportunity to have two groups of 20 at training was an improvement but he agreed it would be nigh on impossible to play football in the country without crowds and was already getting too late to kick off the season in 2020.
He was also asked to comment on whether Dalyston would consider going back to the Alberton League and what he thought the future for Alberton would be post-coronavirus.
“As a league they might (fold) but not the clubs. You have a lot of strong, well-run clubs down there with good supporter bases. It comes down to a passion to play.”
But he said Dalyston’s community of interest was certainly with West Gippsland and the club would not attract people to play if it went the other way.
Several other local clubs have also called on AFL Victoria to set a deadline for the start of football, but all are in furious agreement, country football and netball cannot go ahead without the supporters.